It took Sheng Lingyuan quite some time to realize that although this place was called a "hotel", it was not actually a place that specialized in selling alcohol.
When they arrived, it was already the middle of the night, yet the lobby was still bustling with guests coming and going. To his surprise, Dongchuan was a bustling city even at this hour.
He first saw a group of elderly men and women chattering away, all of them in their golden years but far from dignified. The old men pushed wheeled suitcases while the old women competed with each other over their colorful headscarves, looking like a flock of birds in disarray.
One old woman held a "box" in her hand and after scanning the crowd, her eyes lit up when she saw Sheng Lingyuan standing out from the crowd. She strode over to him and said, "Young man, can you take a picture for me?"
Xuan Ji had just taken the room key from his colleague's hand when he heard a voice that almost scared him to death. He quickly intercepted the fierce old lady who dared to flirt with even the emperor, saying, "Let me do it, my friend is not good at taking pictures, they all come out blurry."
Sheng Lingyuan didn't understand what they were talking about, so he stepped aside and looked at the small screen of the digital camera, ignoring the noisy crowd around him.
He saw a clear image on the few inches of "magic tool" and with a "click," it was captured, but he didn't know what kind of soul-capturing object it was. He instinctively dodged backwards without looking carefully, and a very thin and weak young girl rushed past him in a hurry.
The girl was dragging a suitcase that was almost half her height and holding a phone, talking to someone, "Yes... I'm on a business trip and heading back to Yong'an. The flight is at night... Don't worry, I'll show you the latest version of the plan before boarding!"
Sheng Lingyuan's gaze was drawn to her phone, and then his attention was diverted to the rolling suitcase in her hand. She was alone, without any guards or attendants.
Everyone ignored her, and no one even helped her with her suitcase. The journey from Dongchuan to Yong'an was over a thousand miles, and traveling alone at night, even a small team of armored cavalry would have to be extra vigilant.
Could this ordinary girl really be some kind of rare and exceptional master?
Sheng Lingyuan couldn't help but wonder. "Could she be some kind of expert?"
"Looks like a miserable second-rate worker to me," Xuan Ji had settled the old lady. "Hearing" his confusion, he followed his gaze and glanced over.
As a former second-rate worker who had quit his job, he had plenty of experience and said, "When you travel alone and there's no one to receive you, you have to work around the clock for 24 hours. Of course, you have to take a red-eye flight to save money... Oh, a 'red-eye flight' is a plane that takes off in the middle of the night - you know, the one we took when we came here."
The young girl shivered in the hotel lobby doorway, clearly not looking like she had any special abilities.
After a moment, a yellow car drove by and she casually waved it down. Without even asking a question, she jumped in and drove off, looking as fearless as the sea.
As the smoke cleared, Xuan Ji suddenly noticed that the bloody and violent aura around the old demon had faded away. He was like a fierce beast returning to his territory, retracting his claws and suppressing his unpredictable emotions. He even gently avoided the plants and trees under his protection.
No wonder the old lady earlier dared to charge straight at him.
It was only then that Xuan Ji truly felt that he had been an emperor that had ruled over thousands.
"That yellow car is called a 'taxi'," Xuan Ji couldn't help but interject, introducing it to him. "The driver - also known as a chauffeur - specializes in transporting people and charges based on distance. If you have the chance, you can experience it... Your Majesty, this way please, let's move to the guest room."
Sheng Lingyuan couldn't help but ask, "Isn't she afraid... that little girl?"
"She can't afford to be afraid, she has to make a living. But the security in Dongchuan is well-known, even if you're catching a flight in the middle of the night, the only danger is getting fatigued," Xuan Ji replied.
Sheng Lingyuan couldn't help but exclaim "Good!" and asked, "What dynasty is it in the mortal world? Who is in power?"
"There is no dynasty, the emperors have all been laid off and re-employed... sigh!"
As they were speaking, a receptionist from the local branch of the bureau walked over, carrying several large bags. Their group had experienced a "plane crash" and had rolled around in the swamp, looking disheveled and unrecognizable.
The receptionist who arranged their accommodation was very thoughtful, bringing over some clothes and daily necessities, and even packed some fast food from the 24-hour store.
The receptionist said, "These are all from the sports competition our company organized last year. We bought a few extra, and they're all new, never been worn. Originally, the leaders from the headquarters were supposed to buy everyone something nice, but we didn't know your sizes and were afraid the clothes wouldn't fit. These are all sports clothes, so it's not a big deal if they're a little big or small. Please make do with these for now, leaders."
"Thank you so much for your help. You've all worked so hard, and it's already late at night, yet you still have to follow us around," Xuan Ji warmly expressed her gratitude and turned to call out to Sheng Lingyuan, who was still lost in thought, to come upstairs.
Sheng Lingyuan had just seen in his mind the ever-changing times, the complex social systems of modern society, and the vast world map that he had never heard of before.
It was all too overwhelming for him to take in at once. Xuan Ji took a big gulp of cola and sighed, "When I'm in dire straits, it's my good colleagues who save my life. Your Majesty, would you like to try a bottle?"
Sheng Lingyuan didn't react in time and was handed a bottle of cola. He stared at the small black water bubbling inside with a serious expression.
After descending to the mortal world, the first taste of human indulgence for the Emperor was "Coca Cola", as if it had set the tone for his future lifestyle.
"I told people that you are my sword spirit. Today, you can only stay with me for one night and we'll talk about other things later." Xuan Ji led him to the thirty-first floor.
The hotel had a grand KTV-style decor, a bit tacky but in good condition. The hallway was spotlessly clean with a subtle floral scent from the diffusers.
As they stepped out of the elevator, they were greeted by a magnificent painting of plum blossoms and a dazzling crystal chandelier overhead. Carefully treading on the sound-absorbing carpet, Sheng Lingyuan heard Xuan Ji mutter, "The host has good intentions... but the rooms in this inn are too tightly packed."
The soundproofing in the hotel rooms was limited, and with Sheng Lingyuan's sharp hearing, he could already hear various noises coming from nearby rooms before even leaving the elevator shaft. One room was filled with earth-shattering snores, as if the person inside was struggling to breathe and would stop for a few seconds every now and then, as if on the brink of death. Next door, a group of people were playing some game, laughing and chatting away. They didn't seem to be getting any sleep even though it was almost dawn. In the room to his right, a couple was busy talking furiously.
His Majesty was still learning modern Mandarin and his listening skills were average at best. He didn't dare say he understood everything, but even if he had to guess, he could tell that these two were discussing how to get rid of their respective partners.
Xuan Ji, who shared some of his thoughts and senses, was forced to listen to the "live broadcast" and his hand trembled as he swiped the room card. "Your Majesty, you should move on quickly!" he urged.
Why was his curiosity so strong?
Was he not afraid of getting an ear infection?
Sheng Lingyuan's demeanor remained calm no matter what he saw, as if nothing could surprise him. Perhaps it was due to his previous profession. If it weren't for the fact that he and Xuan Ji were still connected through their "Bluetooth," Xuan Ji would have been fooled by him.
The Emperor's ability to adapt to new environments was truly impressive.
Upon entering, he quietly touched everything and quickly deduced their uses.
Surprisingly, he guessed correctly for most things, with only a few minor errors.
"That's soap for washing hands, not a dessert."
"The hole in the wall is for electricity... it's safe since every household has it. There's no lightning charm inside... and it's not Xiao Zheng's spell, but rather distributed by the power plant."
"That's the air conditioning vent... no need to block it, no one will poison it."
"The water from the faucet is not for drinking, it's not clean."
Sheng Lingyuan took a handful of tap water and was surprised to see the clear and cold water leaking through his fingers. He didn't know what else could be considered clean if this wasn't. At least there was no medicinal taste in the water.
Xuan Ji said, "Are you insulting our Coca Cola?"
As he spoke, he opened another bag of fried chicken, and the strong aroma wafted out without restraint.
Even though Sheng Lingyuan didn't have a strong desire for food, he couldn't help but be drawn to the taste of modern junk food.
When he was still in the sword, he had once seen Xuan Ji cooking at home, and the feast was unimaginably sumptuous. At that time, he thought this little demon was exceptional and rare as the last of his species, so it was okay to live a "luxurious" life. But now, he vaguely realized that everyone here seemed to be living like this.
He saw the greasy meat haphazardly piled together, without any attention to presentation, and there were no utensils beside them.
They were only wrapped in a layer of colorful skin, which Xuan Ji tore off and casually bunched up on the side.
Upon closer inspection, Sheng Lingyuan was shocked to find that there were actually words on the "skin"!
In his lifetime, there was no paper, and writing was done on bamboo or stone tablets, which was taken very seriously. Even the witch people who wrote on leaves considered those recorded leaves to be precious and sacred...yet these people used them to wrap rice and wipe oil!
Sheng Lingyuan refrained from making any hasty comments, but couldn't help but furrow his brow and think, "It's one thing to be extravagant, but this is just improper."
Xuan Ji: ...
"We not only have writing on the oiled paper, but also on some of the cheaper paper that we use for wrapping other things. They are all mass-produced and not luxury items. I'll explain it to you slowly later," Xuan Ji was already starving to the point where his front and back were sticking together. "Your Majesty, aren't you hungry?"
Sheng Lingyuan remembered the overwhelming scent of the "Coca Cola" from earlier and decided not to make things difficult for himself. He shook his head reservedly and said, "No, thank you. I don't need to eat. But as for you..."
This little demon can fly, he has wings, so he must belong to the winged clan. What's wrong with him to be eating these things...
Xuan Ji took a big bite out of half a chicken wing without any feeling of guilt.
"Huh? What's wrong with eating these things?" The golden crispy skin was so delicious that it made a satisfying "crunch" sound when bitten.
As Emperor Sheng Lingyuan watched his companion eat, he heard a faint noise in his ear, like a mouse scurrying about. "It's nothing," he said.
Feeling uncomfortable staring at someone while they ate, the Emperor shifted his gaze and looked around the room.
It was small, a standard room with two snow-white single beds visible as soon as one entered. The bedding was soft and clean, and even by Sheng Lingyuan's standards, it was not shabby. However, it was also quite plain, lacking even a canopy over the bed. The windows were sealed shut, but the curtains were not drawn. This was the 31st floor, and standing by the window, one could see the bustling city below.
Unlike the small county near Chiyuan, Dongchuan was filled with neon lights at night, making even the stars pale in comparison. The city was built into the mountains, with tall buildings stretching as far as the eye could see. The highways and overpasses twisted and turned, outlined by tall street lamps, making one dizzy just looking at them.
It was already late at night, and although there was no traffic, there were still many pedestrians on the street. Just below the hotel was a large theater, and it was unclear whether there was a concert or a performance going on, as the crowd only dispersed in the early hours of the morning. A large group of spectators poured out, and little girls holding light-up signs gathered on the sidewalk, jumping and dancing in groups of three or five.
Sheng Lingyuan couldn't help but be drawn to the window, staring intently at the crowd below the neon lights. He looked out the window, while Xuan Ji was sizing up his back. In that moment, Xuan Ji discerned a hint of positivity in Sheng Lingyuan's calm demeanor. It wasn't necessarily happiness, but rather the dark and constant noise that had been surging and forcefully suppressed in Sheng Lingyuan's heart disappeared momentarily, leaving behind a somewhat nostalgic question: "Just how many people are in Dongchuan?"
"Dongchuan?" Xuan Ji munched on a french fry, pondering for a moment. "I'm not sure, but I estimate there must be at least ten to twenty thousand people."
Sheng Lingyuan was stunned, and Xuan Ji sensed his confusion. Perhaps his imagination was limiting his mathematical abilities, and the Emperor was unable to construct a concept of this magnitude. This rare confusion finally gave him a hint of humanity - in many countries' folklore, there is a setting that the earthly atmosphere is an irresistible temptation for ghosts and monsters in the underworld.
Some of them will even kill and do evil in order to taste the flavor of food and return to the living world. In the story, the desires of ghosts and monsters are the same as those of humans, but Sheng Lingyuan does not have such desires. He witnessed things that ancient people could not imagine, smelled flavors that he had never smelled before, and he did not even inquire about how the Great Qi country perished or the fate of its descendants.
Xuan Ji felt that he had no longing for the world of the living. But...heavenly demons arise from obsession, and without desire or attachment, one cannot become a demon.
What is his obsession?
Xuan Ji's mind was filled with various thoughts, some of which were probing in nature, but Sheng Lingyuan paid no attention, as if he hadn't heard anything.
Xuan Ji then spoke up: "Your Majesty, during your lifetime... ahem, this may sound a bit impolite, but you understand my intentions - did you have any unfulfilled wishes? If you tell me, perhaps I can help."
Sheng Lingyuan smiled and replied, "I had none."
"Well, do you have any plans for the future? Um... do you want to visit any places, like the capital or the palace... what was your palace called again?"
"Du Ling Palace," Sheng Lingyuan said indifferently. "Du Ling Palace was built of ordinary stone and tile, and after thousands of years, it should have turned to dust. What you see now is mostly the result of later renovations and embellishments. It's just a casual sightseeing spot, nothing to take too seriously."
"Oh," Xuan Ji said. He was so naive, even someone from ancient history was now educating him.
Sheng Lingyuan said, "Don't worry, I just want to catch the crazy person who disturbed me with the Yin Sacrifica ritual, and bury them in the ground. I have no intention of staying in this world for long."
Xuan Ji's probing intentions were exposed, but he wasn't embarrassed.
He smiled innocently and said, "I know. Why don't you take a shower first? It's convenient for me to teach you how to use the shower while we're both in this unlucky state. Your change of clothes is in that bag over there."
"The showerhead sprays water, and the switch is here. Turn it to the red side for hot water and the other side for cold water... The bottles contain shampoo, shower gel, and other things. They all look the same, so just pick one and wash up..."
Xuan Ji pointed out the tools in the bathroom to him. Sheng Lingyuan could naturally "see" how to use them in his mind, so there was no need for too many words, which was quite convenient.
However, there were too many new things, and after thousands of years, everything he was familiar with during his lifetime had been overturned. Despite the emperor's astonishing ability to adapt, he still couldn't help but feel overwhelmed. His gaze was always a few seconds slower than Xuan Ji's finger, making him appear somewhat bewildered.
He had a pair of almost translucent eyes, like those of a child who had never been exposed to wind and sun, and knew nothing of good or evil.
As soon as Xuan Ji saw those eyes, even though he knew it was a dangerous situation, her tone involuntarily softened a bit: "Actually, it's not complicated at all. You'll get used to it after using it twice... If you have any questions, just let me know."
"Mhmm." Sheng Lingyuan pretended to be nonchalant, shifting his gaze from the shampoo and nodding. "Very good."
"Fine," Xuan Ji thought helplessly, "whether he becomes a demon or a fairy after death, he was an emperor for his whole life, and dignity is everything."
As soon as this thought arose, the next moment, he met the Emperor's subtle smile.
Xuan Ji's heart tightened, and he was immediately alarmed. Without warning, there was a buzzing sound in his ear, and a thin black mist rose from his feet, enveloping his entire body.
Xuan Ji's thoughts suddenly became incredibly slow, as if his brain had become an open book, allowing others to read it at will. As for Sheng Lingyuan's thoughts that should have been in sync with his own, he didn't hear a single word - the other party had somehow unilaterally blocked him. Even the irrelevant thoughts he heard from Sheng Lingyuan's mind were just a trick to confuse him!
Sheng Lingyuan asked calmly, "Little demon, how old are you? Why are you so easily hungry? Don't you pure-blooded demons all practice 'fasting' from a young age? What exactly are you?"
This sentence was like a precise and ruthless hook, and Xuan Ji was caught off guard.
He was suddenly hooked into countless memories -
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